The best of Jennifer Lien’s Star Trek: Voyager episodes as Kes center on her empathy, compassion, and growing telepathic powers.
- Kes brings joy and optimism to the crew of the USS Voyager, showcasing her empathetic nature and strength as a character.
- Kes faces difficult decisions and personal growth throughout the series, including her relationship with Neelix and the development of her telepathic powers.
- Despite her short time on Voyager, Kes leaves a lasting impact, providing an optimistic perspective and reminding the crew of the potential of exploration and unity.
In Star Trek: Voyager, Kes (Jennifer Lien) brings a sense of joy and wonder to the USS Voyager’s crew with her optimistic empathy, which her best episodes focus on. On Ocampan from the Delta Quadrant, Kes joins the crew with Neelix (Ethan Phillips), and together the pair create an ebullient contrast to the combined Starfleet and Maquis crew stranded in the Delta Quadrant. While Neelix works on morale and food, Kes becomes an empathetic voice of reason, particularly for The Doctor (Robert Picardo). Later episodes see Kes develop her telepathic powers under the tutelage of Lt. Tuvok (Tim Russ), and break up with Neelix in a great turn for character development for both Neelix and Kes.
Kes is written out after Star Trek: Voyager season 3, so she never has a chance to reach her full potential as a character. Early reports surrounding Kes’s departure claimed the Ocampan was a difficult character to write for due to her short lifespan and lack of development. More recently, executive producer Jeri Taylor cited actress Jennifer Lien’s struggles with mental health as a major contributing factor to writing Kes off of Voyager. While Kes wasn’t on Voyager very long, she did feature in some episodes that featured her strength as a character.
6 Season 2, Episode 4
Kes’ relationship with Neelix is tested when a biological anomaly attached to the USS Voyager causes Kes to prematurely enter the Ocampan form of puberty, called the elogium. The couple must decide whether they will have a child, because Ocampan biology dictates it must be now or never. It’s an unusual episode that sets the stage for the plethora of weird things on Star Trek: Voyager, but beyond that, its focus on Kes as a character highlights her devotion to Neelix as a partner, which plays out over the course of Voyager‘s first few seasons as Kes creates other friendships, and values them just as much.
5 Season 1, Episode 1
Star Trek: Voyager‘s premiere takes time to establish the Ocampa as a new Star Trek alien society on Voyager, as well as Kes’ place within Ocampan society. Kes is introduced as one of the rare Ocampa who wants to explore beyond the Caretaker’s underground city and believes that they can survive without the Caretaker, despite the dangers above, like the violent Kazon and the arid landscape itself. Between Kes’s adolescent wanderlust, and the help Kes and boyfriend Neelix can contribute to Voyager’s crew as guides, it’s no surprise Kes leaves her home to spend her short life among the stars.
4 Season 6, Episode 23
An aged Kes returns to Voyager with a vengeance, believing that she was abandoned instead of leaving to forge her own path three years prior. The intervening years haven’t been kind, so Kes time travels back to Star Trek: Voyager season 1 to convince her younger self to return to the Ocampa homeworld, where she will never have to learn about her power. It’s the younger Kes, however, who reminds the elder that she joined the crew of her own free will, and truly wants to explore space and the potential of her telepathic powers. It’s a great reminder of the optimism that characterized Kes early on, as her youthful outlook intervenes with her future.
“Fury” marks the last time Kes is seen in any Star Trek episode.
3 Season 4, Episode 2
Kes’s farewell episode comes early in Star Trek: Voyager season 4, and features Kes’s telepathic Ocampa powers, which now include psychokinesis, and are growing stronger at an alarming rate. Kes’s ability to see and manipulate matter beyond the subatomic level distresses both her mentor Tuvok and ex-boyfriend Neelix, since her lack of control endangers the structure of Voyager itself and its crew. Rather than put others in danger, Kes elects to leave Voyager to discover what she is capable of on her own, and leaves them with the titular parting gift: 9.5 thousand light years shaved off their journey home.
2 Season 2, Episode 10
When Voyager suspects another Caretaker might be able to send them home, they discover an Ocampa colony led by the long-lived Tanis (Gary Graham). Kes is eager to learn from Tanis, who explains the secret to unlocking Kes’s telepathic power lies beyond Vulcan mentor Lt. Tuvok’s strict exercises, in the “cold fire” of pure emotion, but his lessons prove dangerous when Kes embraces them. There’s a dark implication that Kes could be a real threat if she were to go rogue, but Kes’s true nature prevails in the mercy shown to Suspiria, the vengeful Caretaker mate overseeing these Ocampa.
1 Season 3, Episode 21
“Before & After”
Kes begins the episode on her deathbed, as a grandmother infected by chroniton radiation, with no memory of her life, until she’s jolted backwards in time. With each step back through her personal history, Kes takes her memories of the future with her into the past, which helps the Doctor piece together the treatment that saves her life. It’s a neat sci-fi premise with Kes’s brief lifespan increasing the stakes, and her inquisitive determination pushing the plot forward, and the glimpse of Kes’s potential family with Lt. Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) in the abandoned future puts an interesting twist on their friendship as it stands in Voyager season 3.
Voyager’s year-long battle with the Krenim that Kes briefly experiences eventually happens in Star Trek: Voyager season 4, episodes 8 & 9, “Year of Hell”.
Kes may not have featured in many episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, thanks to her time on the series being cut short, but the best Kes episodes still showcased her inherent goodness as a positive trait, rather than pure naïveté. With her open heart and ready willingness to believe in the best of others, Kes’s best episodes show how Kes provides a much-needed optimistic perspective to Voyager’s crew at a time when they could have found themselves hopeless, stranded in the Delta Quadrant without an easy way back home.